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 Post subject: VIA Rail Schedule Change
PostPosted: October 2nd, 2008, 9:23 am 
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Effective December 1, 2008, VIA Rail schedule will implement a new schedule for its transcontinental passenger service. The change will drastically affect canoeists who rely on this service to access popular canoe areas in Northern Ontario such as Wabakimi Provincial Park.

The days of the week for the tri-weekly service in each direction will remain the same but arrival and departure times will be a total reversal of the current timetable. Times quoted below take into account adjustments from Eastern to Central time between Collins and Armstrong.

Westbound ex Armstrong - Wednesday, Friday & Sunday
10:19pm Armstrong
10.05pm Collins
10:49pm Allanwater Bridge
11:23pm Savant Lake

Eastbound ex Savant Lake - Tuesday, Thursday & Sunday
07:35am Savant Lake
08:05am Allanwater Bridge
08:45am Collins
10:23am Armstrong


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PostPosted: October 2nd, 2008, 9:38 am 
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phil, that's not good news. now you hope the train is real late so you get off towards sunrise.

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PostPosted: October 2nd, 2008, 10:14 am 
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I am not crazy about setting off on a canoe trip in the middle of the night (abeit just barely in June)...now it looks like fly or paddle in and train out is the best option unless going in from Savant Lake with an overnight there..

Thanks for the info Phil.


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PostPosted: October 2nd, 2008, 5:33 pm 
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The Train schedule is not the only reason it is more convenient to travel from Armstrong into Wabakimi. Maybe a long term benefit could be an increase in services available to canoeists when entering from the west (Savant Lake).


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PostPosted: October 2nd, 2008, 10:53 pm 
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Hmmm......

Does not sound good for the ecotourism interests of Armstrong - at least as far as interior train access goes. There are B&B's which have built their businesses on the train schedule, shuttling trippers to the train station early in the morning, and providing safe parking for vehicles at their premises. That's devastating news for them. But perhaps they can compensate by ingress via vehicle shuttle into Caribou or Little Caribou lakes. There are also other ingress options via restricted logging road access and portages which could be negotiated for access opportunities for ecotourism interests.

It sounds like a great opportunity for the tiny community of Savant Lake to be a gateway community for Wabakimi from the west side. Savant Lake has a great hotel that is right at the railway stop, so its very convenient. It is a good idea to always stay the night before in a local hotel after a long drive, so you start fresh first thing in the morning after a hearty breakfast at the hotel!

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PostPosted: October 3rd, 2008, 12:42 pm 
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HOOP_ wrote:

It sounds like a great opportunity for the tiny community of Savant Lake to be a gateway community for Wabakimi from the west side. Savant Lake has a great hotel that is right at the railway stop, so its very convenient. It is a good idea to always stay the night before in a local hotel after a long drive, so you start fresh first thing in the morning after a hearty breakfast at the hotel!


The Four Winds Hotel was up for sale when we stopped by in August. The rail schedule change may make the property sell. Anyone for a carreer change?

For us driving in from the east to Savant Lake, it would add about two hours extra drive time over an Armstrong start point.

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PostPosted: October 3rd, 2008, 3:08 pm 
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Some random thoughts on all of this....

Looks as if we need to build some tent spots at several locations along the track to accomodate our late night arrivals. I think this is the same thing that happens if you take the train to Peterbell when you access the Missinaibi at this location. You arrive around midnight or later and have to find a place to set up your tent until morning.....

I wonder if Via did this to get rid of us...? No they aren't all that bright, but someone in Via must be thinking they will either save some time or some money.....

Maybe they could provide a track travelling truck and trailer to move us along the tracks from Armstrong to Savant (and back)when there is traffic in the Canoe Season ......
No that suggestion would be too complicated for Via and CN to contemplate...
I hope the outfitters fight this change ...... or at least ask to discuss the rationale to see what options we/they might have. I hate to see us stop using this option. Some of the outfitters have invested a lot of money trying to accomodate us as Hoop has pointed out.
Taking the tain from Southern Ontario is getting to be the best cost option, especially if you are a senior citizen and two get to travel for the price of one. This new schedule may screw that all up now.


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 Post subject: Coping with Change
PostPosted: November 12th, 2008, 11:39 am 
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The comments in this thread are all valid and most welcome. Permit me to add a few of my own.

CNR owns the right-of-way (ROW) and frowns on people camping on it too near the tracks. I suppose it's out of concern for public safety but there's also the threat of fire from campsites hastily abandoned when the train arrives unannounced (and invariably, late).

The primary value of the VIA Rail service is that is helps to disperse visitor traffic entering Wabakimi Provincial Park. Compared to the limited number of road access points, there are many more opportunities to access the park's canoe routes from the railway ROW. One of my fears is that the pending schedule change will force more paddlers to use the road accessible Caribou River corridor to access the park's interior and this particular canoe route is already overused and abused.

An alternative not mentioned to date will be for enterprising resource-based tourism businesses to position themselves along the ROW at key entry points to provide accommodation for paddlers disembarking from the westbound VIA Rail train in the middle of the night.

There are already such facilities available at Collins, Allanwater Bridge and Flindt River Landing but to limit such services to these popular entry points places an undue burden on canoe route values in these areas. Extra locations will be needed at other entry points such as Bath Lake, Shultz's Trail or William's Trail, Redhead Lake and Barrington Lake to name but a few.

Over the past two years, volunteers of The Wabakimi Project have managed to rehabilitate and document many of the canoe routes that lie on the Crown land between the western boundary of Wabakimi and Highway 599 and more will be done in 2009.

These routes provide strategic links to the park as well as to other protected places such as St. Raphael, Brightsand River and Albany River Provincial Parks. There are several points along the highway north of Savant Lake--both public and private--from which these routes may be accessed and several reputable resource-based tourism establishments where one could leave a vehicle and obtain shuttle services.

Many of the public access points along Highway 599 have fallen into disrepair due to a lack of regular maintenance. If they were kept in better shape, the writer to this thread who suggested the VIA Rail schedule change may be a blessing to the community of Savant Lake could well be correct in making such a prediction.


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PostPosted: January 7th, 2009, 11:19 am 
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bump

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PostPosted: January 14th, 2009, 9:35 am 
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I was wondering if it would be possible to ship a car from Savant Lake to Armstrong on a rail car. I know there are some areas in Canada where that is possible. I called Via Rail they said they are only a passenger train but I am sure there must cargo traveling along that corridor as well. Of course there might not be a means to load and unload a car at those locations. We were thinking getting off near Beagle Lake to head south to the Kopka. Being dropped off in the middle of the night is not so bad if there is place to put up a tent. Does anyone know if the area is suitable for bushwhacking a camp at midnight? Also how late can one expect the train to run? Can one trust the conductor to drop you off at the desired location?

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PostPosted: January 14th, 2009, 11:39 am 
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Quote:
I was wondering if it would be possible to ship a car from Savant Lake to Armstrong on a rail car.

Not doable! There are no loading platforms at either of these locations nor does the streamlined passenger train haul a flat car or box car that would hold a road vehicle.

Quote:
Being dropped off in the middle of the night is not so bad if there is place to put up a tent. Does anyone know if the area is suitable for bushwhacking a camp at midnight? Also how late can one expect the train to run? Can one trust the conductor to drop you off at the desired location?

You've raised a whole whack of issues here most of which have one thing in common--liability! CNR owns the right-of-way (ROW) and does not look kindly on persons occupying it even overnight. They argue that there's the danger of an accident causing harm or serious injury to anyone is such close proximity to the tracks. And they freak out at the thought of any kind of open [camp]fire near the tracks during the forest fire season.

Beyond the ROW lies Wabakimi Provincial Park where the park superintendent has made it emphatically clear that no one other than park personnel (eg., portage crews) has the legal right to "bushwack" portages or campsites.

VIA Rail often runs late, especially in the summer season when passenger traffic is at a peak, stops take longer to load/discharge passengers and unscheduled stops are more frequent. VIA Rail is low on the totem pole of priority when it comes to routing trains along this remote, single-track, northern line that has a limited number of passing sidings. Consequently, it's not unusual for VIA Rail to run several hours late. A few years ago, trains were running as much as 24 hours late due to forest fires in the BC interior.

For unscheduled or "request" stops to pick up or drop off canoeists, VIA Rail requires 48 hours advance notice. Conductors are familiar with most of the popular stops, however, if yours is not known to them, you are responsible to supply them with the location along the tracks west of Armstrong to the nearest tenth of a mile.

Again for liability reasons, a VIA Rail conductor will not allow passengers to disembark at an unscheduled stop unless there's a visable portage trail or waterway which the passengers can safely access. I had an interesting experience in this regard with one of The Wabakimi Project expeditions that was being inserted into the park by train. The engineer stopped the train at precisely the mileage requested but fell short of the portage trail by a few metres. He radioed the conductor in the baggage car--where we were assembled waiting to alight--to announce that he couldn't see a trail and the conductor refused to open the door. It took some doing to convince the conductor to get the engineer to pull the train forward so he could see the trail. I wonder how this policy will affect people's ability to convince a conductor that the stop requested at a specific mileage in the middle of nowhere is a safe location to leave passengers in the dark of the night.

Your original question suggests that you plan to drive to Savant Lake to start your canoe trip. What not leave your vehicle with Denis at his hotel, take the train east to your jumping off point (during daylight hours) and take the train back to Savant Lake when you finish your trip? You could stay at the hotel overnight and enjoy a hearty breakfast before departing in the morning. The hotel is only 200m from where passengers disembark in Savant Lake.

There are several points of egress from the Kopka River from where you could arrange a road shuttle into Armstrong in order to catch the train back to Savant Lake. Or, you could plan your route to terminate at a point along the CNR ROW such as Collins which is a scheduled stop for VIA Rail and where you may be able to arrange temporary shelter while you wait for the train to arrive.

As I speculated in my original post to this thread, the impact of VIA Rail's decision to change its timetable will be significant for canoeists who use this service in the Wabakimi area between Savant Lake and Armstrong.


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PostPosted: March 1st, 2009, 12:19 pm 
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What facilities exist at Allanwater Bridge?

I was there 15 years ago and vaguely remember an old house or school. Is there an area within a reasonable distance from the tracks where one could camp if coming off the westbound train at 10:49 pm?

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Last edited by Strathcona on March 1st, 2009, 8:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: March 1st, 2009, 2:03 pm 
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I believe the former Allanwater Public School building (and land?) was purchased a few years ago by an area outfitter.

The new VIA Rail westbound schedule will offer local entrepreneurs an opportunity to develop overnight accommodation facilities for canoeists at the more popular drop-off locations especially at the 'scheduled' stops of Collins, Allanwater and Flindt Landing.


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PostPosted: April 9th, 2009, 9:47 pm 
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Hmmmm.... I also have plans to access the Kopka via a Beagle Lake train dropoff. It would stink to cancel my trip now that I've planned for it. I may just go ahead with it and find a place to camp in the middle of the night with a headlamp. If there's a problem at VIA's end, they can figure out how to deal with the problem they have created, since I will have pre-booked the mileage dropoff. The VIA operator on the phone and the Armstrong Resources Development Corporation didn't seem to think that there would be any issues with the schedule change. Has anyone checked in with the park superintendent? Maybe I should do that as well.

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PostPosted: April 23rd, 2009, 1:10 pm 
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I checked with the park superintendent today and he said to just find whatever place is available to camp at dusk or in the dark when we arrive. He did emphasize the importance of staying off of CN property.

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